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March 30, 2013

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Washing machine on balcony fouls rivers

USING washing machines on balconies, a common practice in Shanghai, is contributing to serious river pollution as detergents from the machines may flow directly through rainwater pipes to rivers, local officials warned.

Authorities said many residents put washing machines on balconies to save indoor space while others want to make it easier to hang up clothes to dry nearby.

But most residential buildings in the city only have a rainwater pipe from balconies instead of a sewer pipe, releasing pollutants that kill fish and severely damage water quality, authorities told Shanghai Evening News.

"Over 500 tons of such detergents may be poured into rivers in the city each month if half of local residents wash their clothes on balconies, each using 50 grams of detergent per month," said Ruan Renliang, an official with Shanghai Water Authority Bureau.

"The detergents from washing machines may cause the river to contain excessive levels of phosphorus and nitrogen, damaging water quality," said Wang Hui, an official with Shanghai Water Conservancy Management Department.

Sewerage pipe required

In one case about a decade ago, residents living in an old community in Wujing Town of suburban Minhang District were plagued by a stench from a nearby river. Officials found that over 70 percent of households had washing machines on balconies. When all buildings were required to connect a sewerage pipe to balconies, the rivers became clean.

In some other cities in China, such as Fuzhou and Shaoxing, governments force developers to install sewerage pipes on balconies, but Shanghai doesn't have any similar law.

Officials said it would be impossible to force all the residents to move their washing machines, and it would take too much time to install new sewerage pipes at old buildings.

According to the company which installed sewerage pipes at the community in Minhang in 2004, the cost was over 4.5 million yuan (US$724,533), and was shared by all the households, with each paying 1,000 yuan.

Some new buildings have pipes on balconies to carry all water to sewage plants.


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